Mount Union captures 10th football title
It was apparent that Wisconsin-Whitewater’s defensive game plan going into the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl was to stop Mount Union running back Nate Kmic, who just happens to be the all-time leading rusher in any division in college football history.
The Warhawks’ strategy was sound, but they couldn’t account for Mount Union’s passing game as the Purple Raiders used two early touchdowns through the air en route to a 31-26 victory in front of 5,433 fans in Salem, Virginia, December 20.
Mount Union, 15-0, has now won 10 NCAA Division III national titles, with all of them coming since the 1993 season.
While Kmic was held in check, finishing with 88 yards and ending his career with a record 8,074 yards, quarterback Greg Micheli burned Wisconsin-Whitewater with 262 yards passing. Receiver Cecil Shorts was his favorite target, hauling in seven passes for 178 yards.
Micheli and Shorts combined to give Mount Union a 14-0 lead on scoring plays of 55 and 41 yards in the first six minutes of the game. It was a lead the Purple Raiders never relinquished.
“The thing that (Wisconsin-Whitewater) did was commit plenty of guys to stopping Nate, and that was evident early,” Micheli told the assembled media after the game. “Fortunately, Cecil was able to get behind them. That's one thing we had talked about all week was getting off to a good start.”
Wisconsin-Whitewater, which ended Mount Union’s 37-game win streak in the 2007 Stagg Bowl, cut the deficit in half on a one-yard run by Antwan Anderson. The Purple Raiders responded with another scoring drive capped by a two-yard plunge by Kmic that gave his team a 21-7 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
The defenses settled down after the early scoring bursts.
But the Warhawks never found a way to contain Micheli, who was 12 of 19 passing along with rushing for 56 yards. He added the game’s most outstanding player award to the Gagliardi Trophy he received December 18.
“Micheli is about as accurate a quarterback as I can remember,” Wisconsin-Whitewater coach Lance Leipold said. “That’s why he's the player of the year in Division III. The other thing that he does, he creates things with his feet.”
The Warhawks, 13-2, found themselves trailing, 24-13, early in the fourth quarter when the game-changing play occurred. A pass from quarterback Jeff Donovan deflected off a receiver’s hands, and Mount Union safety Drew McClain intercepted and returned the ball 78 yards for a 31-13 lead.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” McClain said.
Wisconsin-Whitewater added two late touchdowns, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
It was the fourth straight season these two teams have met in the finals of the Division III playoffs. Last year’s defeat served as motivation for the Purple Raiders.
“It was a long offseason,” said Kmic, who has scored a Division III-record 16 postseason touchdowns in his career.
Micheli added: “We had a lot of questions coming into this season, and we really answered all of them.”
Mount Union 31, Wis.-Whitewater 26
Wis.-Whitewater 7 3 3 13 -- 26
Mount Union 21 3 0 7 -- 31
MU: Cecil Shorts 55 pass from Greg Micheli (Ryan Wilk kick), 13:10.
MU: Shorts 41 pass from Micheli (Wilk kick), 9:15.
WW: Antwan Anderson 1 run (Jeff Schebler kick), 7:36.
MU: Nate Kmic 2 run (Wilk kick), 4:43.
WW: Schebler 21 field goal, 9:50.
MU: Wilk 29 field goal, 2:33.
WW: Schebler 31 field goal, 1:01.
MU: Drew McClain 78 interception return (Wilk kick), 11:59.
WW: Anderson 2 run (Schebler kick), 6:46.
WW: Jeff Donovan 1 run (pass failed), 1:12.
First downs 31 15
Rushes-yards 45-198 33-139
Passing 257 262
Comp.-Att.-Int. 28-38-1 12-19-0
Return yards 166 172
Punts-Avg. 2-33.5 3-36.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 4-40 4-30
Time of Possession 34:17 25:43
Rushing: WW -- Antwan Anderson 19-129, Levell Coppage 13-41, Aaron Rusch 1-19, Jeff Donovan 12-17; MU: Nate Kmic 22-88, Greg Micheli 8-56, Team 3-minus 5.
Passing: WW -- Donovan 28-38-0-257; MU: Micheli 12-19-2-262.
Receiving: WW -- Rusch 8-79, Adam Brandes 7-68, Jordan Wells 6-71, Matt Gifford 3-25, Nick Slupski 3-14, Anderson 1-0; MU: Cecil Shorts 7-178, Chad Reynolds 2-40, Vince Petruziello 1-24, Judd Harrold 1-17, A.J. Claycomb 1-3.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association